An unflinching story of a troubled friendship — and one girl’s struggle to come to terms with secrets and shame and find her own power to heal.
Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn’t Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.
I learned about LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL during Banned Book Week. It’s a complicated book, one that’s hard to say you “liked” or “enjoyed.” In the end, though, it’s a book that made me think and feel, and really, I think that’s just what such a book sets out to do.
The topics in the book were covered tastefully. It’s not as brutal a book as LIVING DEAD GIRL is, but neither does it shy away from Leah and Laine’s twisted relationship. I appreciated the fullness of the major characters and the mixture of love and hate that defined the girls’ relationship. Knowles did a good job showing how complicated a friendship can be, how sometimes, you can love someone even as they hurt you. Often, in books, this sort of love/abusive relationship is portrayed between a couple, so having two friends experience it was a fresh view.
The supporting characters were well-drawn, and though I didn’t personally recognize some of the situations Knowles’s teenaged protagonists got themselves into, I can fully believe that they happen.
LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL is an intense book that doesn’t give its characters neatly tied up lives. But it’s a look into a life that unfortunately, doesn’t only exist in fiction.
Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She has recently signed with literary agent Emmanuelle Morgen and spends most of her free time whipping HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–into shape for submission to publishers. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.